Race Car Tomatoes

As space opens up in the greenhouse (due to seedlings moving out to the field) I am trying some greenhouse grown tomatoes. These aren't your hydroponic, temperature controlled hothouse tomatoes with no flavor - they are grown in the ground with just enough climate modification from one layer of plastic to boost their growth. I've been thinking of them as the race cars of the garden this year because in order to maximize the yield from the relatively limited space, I've put extra effort and resources into almost every aspect of growing them so far - from specialized seeds, to babying the transplants and now to the soil preparation:

Double Digging

I started out by double-digging the bed. This is a technique that is great for small gardens or intensively managed areas but takes far to long for me to do on a large scale. First, a trench is dug, reserving the topsoil on the side. Then, the bottom of the trench is worked up with amendments and loosened with a fork. Then, a second trench is dug next to the first one, replacing the topsoil that was removed in the first one. The process is repeated until the bed has been completely dug, and the topsoil from the original trench is replaced in the last one. It's important to keep the soil layers separate, because inverting them or mixing them can lead to anaerobic conditions which are bad for roots and other soil life.

Prepared Bed

After plenty of digging, the bed is ready. Although this method is generally beneficial to the soil health, I think it's worth remembering that it is still a huge disturbance to the soil ecosystem. The manual labor associated with performing this method with hand tools makes it hard to ignore.

Tomatoes in their new home

Finally, I put the tomatoes in the ground. I have a hoop over the top (now covered with fabric) to help keep them warm overnight until the nights are reliably above 7 degrees C or so. The plants are spaced quite closely for single leader (one stem) training. As they grow, I will use a special roller to lower the stem to keep the productive area of the plant at picking height.

If all goes well, I'm looking forward to "race car" performance - higher yield, longer season and earlier harvest.